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  • $470 RAISED OF $2,000 GOAL


  • Anonymous $20.00
  • Stefanie Pohl $150.00
  • Jill Verscheure $50.00
  • Jodi Albaitis $100.00
  • Mary Tavarozzi $100.00
  • Kristine Kletke $50.00

empowHER Leadership Retreat

Girls today face so many challenges on a daily basis, from cyber-bullying to increased demands on them to perform, look, and be their best. The goal of empowHER is to provide programming and education to allow young girls in our community to flourish and grow. empowHER supports participants by creating a sense of community, boosting confidence, learning life-changing skills, and strengthening their resilience. The empowHER event provides an exciting, uplifting space for the girls to engage with nationally recognized speakers and our workshops create a space for girls to talk through real-life, necessary skills with peers and mentors during small group discussions.

Girls in our community have a deep need for connection, confidence, resilience, and a space to explore who they are. empowHER is meeting that need through the relationships the girls build with one another, the role models they find in their mentors and presenters, our age-appropriate content, and so much more. We know that today’s girls are facing anxiety and stress.  They also face an increased risk of depression. This can impair their performance in school, extracurriculars and have a lasting impact on interpersonal relationships.

Founder Suzy Merchant often says, “If we can save one girl’s life, it’s all worth it.” That statement is not made lightly. empowHER was born because of April Bocian - a young woman who Coach Merchant was recruiting to play basketball for Michigan State University. Unbeknownst to anyone, April was struggling in many ways as a young woman. She completed suicide during the time that Coach Merchant was in the recruitment process. From this tragedy, Suzy felt a call to honor April’s life and build up girls in our community. As a means of honoring her, April’s parents are actively involved in the planning and activities of empowHER.

empowHER’s goal is to change girls’ lives by providing a space for girls to explore what it is to be themselves, how to reach out for help if they are struggling, and to help them know what it is like to have a community of other girls to support them - so they know they are not alone. Ever. By receiving funding to run the empowHER programs this year, we will be able to offer participants vital resources that will directly influence their success.

Your Support Will Change a Girl’s Life

empowHER is a one-day live event, scheduled for April 29, 2022,  at the Breslin Center. The increasing importance of social media in girls’ lives and the isolation of the pandemic, in conjunction with a changing social landscape, have all created unique challenges for today’s generation of girls. To meet this challenge, empowHER will build resilience skills in girls to combat bullying, increase self-confidence and create community among the girls, mentors, and role models. Through inspiring speakers and content, empowHER will address important issues; provide role models in presenters and mentors and continue to build leadership skills in mentors through training and support.

Project Budget

The cost to participants is kept at an affordable level of $25 per girl, but the all-in cost to putempowHER on comes to $170 per participant. This covers speakers’ fees, supplies, marketing, and more, all designed to maximize the day for the girls.

Your support will help to provide an amazing experience for our attendees. Every $170 raised covers the full event cost for an attendee and helps us to maintain the low registration cost overall. Funds raised will also provide scholarships to eliminate the cost barrier completely for those who need it.

Who We Are

The volunteer empowHER Leadership Board consists of 12 women who are the key team members that make empowHER a reality. Their diverse backgrounds come together to create a synergy and flow making this a reality year after year.

Board Members are:

Founder, Suzy Merchant, MSU Women's Basketball Head Coach
Board & Event Co-Chair

Board Co-Chair & Content Chair Lydia Weiss, Climate & Response Program Administrator for Prevention Outreach & Education Dept at MSU

Board Co-Chair & Event Co-Chair Julie Pagel Dombroski, Director of Operations for MSU Women's Basketball

Event Chair Janelle Jones, Director for Corporate Events at AF Group

Registration Chair Renee Bush, Business Development at MSU Federal Credit Union

Board Operations Chair Ann Crain, Multicultural Business Program at MSU

Communications Chair Kristine Kletke, President of PMSI Marketing Group

Operations Chair Brekelle Wiedenmannott, MSU Broad College of Business

Mentor Chair Shayna Allen, Founder of TämBwoy Branding & Marketing

Mentor Co-Chair Angela Michael, Student Affairs at MSU

Volunteer Chair Meghan Ziehmer, Associate Director at the Greater Lansing Sports Authority

Sponsorship Chair Jodi Albaitis, Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation

Board Operations Chair Margaret Selasky, MSU Women's Basketball

Make a Gift by Mail:

University Advancement
Spartan Way
535 Chestnut Road, Room 300
East Lansing, MI 48824

*Make check payable to Michigan State University and write “Appeal 23OOPCF1GTEHER” in the note section.

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